Friday, August 1, 2014

Onn Vegetarian - Kallang

I recall first hearing about Onn Vegetarian a few years ago by a few of my readers.  Unfortunately due to my own personal laziness, it has taken me quite a while to eventually make the effort to visit Onn - What a mistake it was.  I am about to conduct a review on what might possibly be the best vegetarian hawker in Singapore, so please brace yourselves folks.  For those wanting to visit Onn, you will be pleased to find it is just a stones throw away from Kallang MRT.  It has been located at this coffee shop for five years now.

Onn Vegetarian
Location: Blk 5 Upper Boon Keng Road, G5 Food House

Contact: 91526917
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-2.30pm.  Ad-hoc closing, follow their FB for updates.

The menu at Onn is intriguing to say the least.  Pictured (the three A4 white sheets) are the regular items that customers can expect to see sold every day. 
What really excited me about Onn are the daily specials.  The chef changes these dishes all the time, to the point where some specials appear only once a month.  That can give you an understanding of the repertoire of dishes that this man is capable of producing.  Customers can expect around 4-5 daily specials each day.  The variety and abundance of dishes is really restaurant quality - Sensational.

The man behind the dishes at Onn is Chef Wai.  Having spent 15 years as a pastry chef at establishments such as Westin Stamford and Les Amis, it is clear this man has a lot of experience in the kitchen.  Those years as a pastry chef are definitely reflected in the remarkably beautiful plating of every dish.  Interestingly, Chef Wai is also the reason behind the name 'Onn'.  His ex-colleagues gave him the nickname 'Onn', as his hometown is Anson, Perak - Which in Cantonese is pronounced 'Onn Soon', hence the shortened nickname 'Onn' was born.
Onn Vegetarian is not only about Chef Wai.  It is run by a duo, with the other half being John Tan.  John spent 23 years (prior to Onn) working in supermarket chains, and also having a short stint with DFS Changi Airport.  John and Chef Wai make a fantastic team.  Chef Wai is a shy and reserved individual, whereas John does very well engaging with customers.  Their objective for opening Onn is to encourage more people to switch to a vegetarian diet, eat healthy and most importantly enjoy eating vegetarian food.
I visited Onn on two separate occasions (something I seldom do), without question the best dish I sampled was the Green Curry with Organic Brown Rice.  I've tasted many green curries in my time, and always failed to appreciate this dish.  This was the first time in my life I tried green curry and loved it.  This dish is practically flawless.  The freshly grounded spices and enhanced sourness made the curry base absolutely delectable.  There were a wide variety of ingredients inside, such as mock fish, cherry tomatoes, baby eggplant, brinjal, long beans and celery.  The only tragedy is that John told me this green curry only makes its way to the daily specials once or twice a month - I don't know if I can go without this sensational dish for so long!

Price: $7.00.     10/10 

One very unusual and interesting ingredient that could be found in the green curry are these small cute little baby eggplants.
If you're a soup lover, then Onn will occasionally serve magnificent double boiled soups.  On this particular day they were serving two varieties, I picked the more affordable Si Chuan Tomato Enoki Soup.  The key to the success of this soup is the 榨菜 zha cai vegetable, which is Chinese pickled mustard plant.  This vegetable gives the soup a lovely saltiness, but doesn't have the spice (thankfully) that more traditional sichuan style zha cai has.  In fact, the more more closely resembles a Cantonese style ABC soup.  Once again there are a wide variety of ingredients used inside.  Typically, soups like these are formed by adding the left over stems and pieces of vegetables used from other dishes.  Onn, however, only use freshly chopped vegetables for this dish.  Take this soup when it is steaming hot, that is when it is at its best!

Price: $5.00.     9/10

Another special dish I sampled was the Roasted Meat & Char Siew Organic Brown Rice.  For this dish, the rice is flavoured just like chicken rice, very flavourful.  On top of the rice there are two varieties of mock meat.  The kind with the orange top is specially imported from KL (can't be found in Singapore).  This variety adds a fatty texture to the dish.  The other mock meat is the more typical kind.  I preferred the latter mock meat.

Price: $5.00.     7/10
One of the dishes I selected from the regular daily menu was the Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle.  This dish represents one of the more affordable items on the menu, opposed to the more costly daily specials.  This dish had a pleasant braised flavour, which matched very well with the fresh texture of the noodles. 

Price: $4.00.     7/10
Mee Soto is a quite well known dish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but can be seldom found in a vegetarian version.  This dish was once again beautifully plated - It really makes such a big difference.  I found that the flavour of the broth didn't quite have the intensity that I was looking for, but nevertheless it was highly enjoyable. 

Price: $4.50.     7/10

Lastly, we have the Thai Style Fish Served with Organic Brown Rice.  This was another splendid dish with a great diversity of ingredients and superb flavour.  Usually when cooking Thai dishes, cooks tend to blast the dish with unnecessary spice.  For this dish, I was pleased to discover that aroma took precedence over spice.  In fact, the dish was not spicy at all.  I loved the slight sourness of the dish, and the fact that all the ingredients were cooked to perfection.  The mock fish chunks were nice and chewy, and went well with the sauce.

Price: $7.00.     8/10

Conclusion - As the Hungry Ang Mo, I go around Singapore all the time eating good vegetarian food, but it is only on very rare occasions that I come across an eatery that is out of this world - Onn Vegetarian is one of those places.  If you're a foodie, then making the pilgrimage to Block 5 Upper Boon Keng Road should be considered compulsory.  Onn shows off the beautiful flavours and colours of vegetarian cooking in all its glory, like a peacocks feathers.  A remarkable and unforgettable stall.

Overall Rating
Food - 9/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 10/10
Value - 9/10


  1. wow. 10/10? i must try that then. i hope u were composed when you sampled and reviewed the dish :p

    the rice seemed a mix of brown n white. did i see rightly?

    anyway, i saw the baby eggplant for my first time. interesting.


    1. Hey anonymous,

      Definitely you should check out the green curry, or any curry from this stall - Absolutely amazing!

      I think it's a mixture between brown rice and red rice, but I am not sure, will have to check with the owner.

      Hope you enjoy it, let me know how it went after you visited!


  2. I wonder if some dishes contain milk (saw a packet in one of the photos).

    1. Hey anonymous,

      I don't think Onn market themselves as being 'vegan', so it wouldn't surprise me. But from what I know most of their dishes don't contain any milk. I know some of their dishes contain egg, so it is always better to ask and make sure.


    2. Would be helpful to know in advance if an eatery cooks eggs, especially when some owners make it less obvious. I'm terribly scared of eating eggs - even an itsy bitsy amount. Even though there are some stalls that you rated very highly, I don't go there for the fear of cross contamination.

    3. Hey anonymous,

      Sorry that I forgot to mention some of their dishes have egg. I do try my best to make all diets aware in my reviews, whether its vegan, Buddhist vegetarian, eggless vegetarian etc.

      I don't think you need to worry about cross contamination, the chef at Onn is very clean and methodical in the kitchen. Moreover, very few of the dishes contain egg.

      If you really want to be strict on not taking egg, then you should be careful about being mock meats, many of which contain egg. I know of some veggie stalls that claim to be eggless, but are using mock meat that contains egg. So you can never be too sure.


    4. Thanks for the advice, I tend to avoid mock meats - not just for eggs, but milk as well - these days, unless known to be vegan.

    5. Hey anonymous,

      Yes I am with you! Vegan is the way to go!


  3. Wow, their variety increased from last visit.
    Love Green curry and had not found a good one after Yuan Yuan at Geylang closed down.
    Ok, will make a note to visit it again!

    1. Hey Sunny,

      You will love their green curry, that is for sure! But make sure to call ahead, as they only have the green curry a couple of times per month.



    2. I miss Yuan Yuan.... :(


  4. Me too! I wonder if the owners ever opened up elsewhere...


  5. hi, luke.
    shihong here (said recently in a fb chat with u that i might reveal my id in future posts :p)

    i visited onn twice in about as many days.
    visit 1: mee rebus and mushroom minced meat noodles.

    both noodles were cooked ok - could have been chewier. they tasted like egg figured - beware, vegans. the mushroom minced meat dish,, surprisingly, had typical wanton mee as, apparently, the default type of noodles. i ate the wanton mee 2nd so the delay might have hardened the noodles slightly - to my slight dismay.

    mee rebus resembled the mee soto u reviewed in appearance, insufficient intensity for the gravy and ingredients. the flavourful and chewy fish cakes or slices were unexpected as the meat version has beancurd ones. but, the fish cakes were commendable for their taste in texture. the crunchy and lightly cooked beansprouts were welcomed but i wish more were given. i thought i noticed, with satisfaction, pumpkin puree in the gravy. the pumpkin was probably to sweeten and thicken the gravy. the mee rebus had cubes of cracker-crispy dough as a garnish. i loved the crispness n, in relation to that, the relative lack of grease on the tongue. the dough-cubes and fish cakes starred for this dish. they should be ordered and enjoyed as sides.

    the mushroom minced meat noodles lacked the braised flavour that luke, u discerned. i found the sauce, like the mee rebus gravy, rather tepid. i hope more spices n herbs will figure. the pork bits were ok n boosted flavour n presentation. i wish i knew of the wanton mee beforehand and had ordered the slightly healthier kway teow.

    visit 2: mock meats rice and laksa

    luke, i must object to your favourable view about the mock meats rice. the rice was overcooked, perhaps soaked with too much water till it was quite dehulled (a nutrional no-no), and was mixed with white rice. i also did not see what the black sauce did for the rice. the rice was saved from calamity only by the coriander sprigs and chopped bits.
    the meats were too sweet to resemble the meat counterparts in taste. the KL meat that u endorsed also lacked salt and fat - features for the animal version. the meats also contained the typical mock-meat taste. at least the meats were chewy enough.

    the laksa was better in flavour and ingredients. if i recalled rightly, fish and beancurd slices figured again. still, the gravy could have been spicier and more herbal. to contradict this, i restrained myself from finishing the gravy. crispy thins adorned the dish. these were ok yet i wish the crispy doughcubes and coriander sprigs garnished the dish.

    the sambal chilli were flavourful n spicy enough for me - someone with a medium tolerance for chilli. this can be mixed into dishes to spice them more.

    overall, onn heartened me - a vegetarian idealist (in nutrition and taste). this is especially since it is in a kopitiam. the food was healthy and tasty enough. the portion sizes and prices were acceptable too. the operators were friendly and accommodating (with my requests). i noticed during both visits that onn and the economical rice stall seemingly dominated business. indeed, remarkably for a kopitiam stall, i waited about 10 mins both times for my dishes (yes, prepare to wait). luke, thanks for the recommendation. i was quite pleased with onn.

    1. Hey Shihong,

      As always, thank you for your detailed feedback! :)


  6. Hi Luke, do you know if they use MSG? And is their mock meat made of gluten? For those of us who take a natural, whole foods plant-based diet (with no MSG, gluten etc), it'd be great if you could indicate if a stall has any of these: MSG, mock meat using gluten and not whole foods (e.g. mushroom, beans). Thanks a lot!

    1. Hey Q,

      No MSG in their food. They do use mock meat, but to my knowledge nothing coming from gluten. They are typically using mushroom and soy based mock meats.


  7. Hi Luke -

    Thanks for recommending the sambal petai at Onn's to me. Very delicious and the use of chili was just right (gave heat w/o overpowering the other ingredients). It went very well with their organic brown rice.

    The mock mutton in (yellow) curry sauce was also very tasty - especially the potatoes in the dish.

    Chef Wai is certainly a master at his trade and John Tan does a great job on providing top notch customer service. A very powerful and complimentary duo.

    I will head back there when next they offer their green curry (and will be hoping that the petai is on the menu that same day).

    Thanks for the recommendations,

  8. Today I taste the best double boiled soup ever

  9. today's Massaman curry brings Onn Vegetarian to another level up. Personally, i prefer Massaman curry to green curry. Way to go Onn Vegetarian.


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